Participation is Essential

The punitive anti-union laws that were introduced by former Bradford council leader Eric (now Lord) Pickles mean that the participation of members is vital not only to the cause of a renewed industrial action mandate but also as a demonstration of the relevance of UCU locally.

Meeting the 50% participation threshold in branch sends a clear message to management that UCU is your de facto representative on all matters of staff relations.

Please cast your vote – whatever your views on the issues of workload, gender pay equality, casualisation and pay.

20th September EGM Update – Branch Exercises Opt-Out

Following the announcement of suspension of the MAB and 5 days of strike action, UCU HQ gave branches the option to ‘opt out’ of the upcoming strike if that was considered to be strategically advantageous at this stage of the ongoing dispute.

Under the terms of the opt out, HQ required that branches show evidence of consultation with members if they wished to exercise that right, and accordingly an EGM was called for 20th September at which members were asked to vote on the following motion:

This branch proposes to exercise the option to opt out of the industrial action scheduled for 25th – 29th September. The branch affirms its commitment to ensuring the highest possible turnout in the ballot for industrial action.

There were speakers both for and against the proposal, after which there was a healthy and respectful debate on the merits and disadvantages of opt out; a vote was taken by show of hands.

In addition, and to ensure the broadest possible participation, members unable to attend were asked to vote by email to the branch inbox.

The results are as follows:

  • For the motion – 17 + 8 = 25
  • Against the motion – 14 + 2 = 17
  • Abstentions – 0

The motion was CARRIED (the meeting was quorate).

In accordance with the rules as laid down by UCU HQ, an email confirming that Bradford University UCU members had voted to opt out of the next strike period was sent in advance of the deadline for submission (which was 2pm 20th September 2023).

Committee would like to place on record their thanks to all those who participated in the EGM particularly given the late notice, and for the collegiate and respectful way in which the debate was conducted.

Following the vote, members were reminded that many branches would still be striking, whether in support of the national campaign or more local issues (including punitive pay deduction following MAB) and urged members to consider contributing to the fighting fund in a show of solidarity.

UCU Committee

Ballot for Further Action

With UCEA remaining intransigent UCU is regrettably compelled to seek a mandate for a further period of industrial action. If our negotiators are to have any hope of matching the success of the battle for pensions, that mandate is vital.

Restrictive trade union laws mean that a ballot of members MUST achieve a participation rate of 50% for the vote to be valid. Whatever your views then, your participation in the ballot is therefore crucial if the will of you and your colleagues is to be heard. Please make your views known by returning your ballot paper.

Here is a summary of the key dates and events: 

  • Tuesday 19 September (18:30): ballot-eve UCU Live, watch on YouTubeFacebook or Twitter
  • Wednesday 20 September: the day that your postal ballot will start arriving. Make sure that you vote YES as soon as you receive yours
  • Friday 29 September (09:00): replacement ballot request form opens; if you have not received your ballot by this point then you can order a replacement
  • Friday 27 October (12:00 noon): deadline for new higher education members to join UCU and be automatically included in the ballot. Make sure that you have spoken to all of your colleagues who are not yet in the union and get them signed up before this date
  • Sunday 29 October (23:59): replacement ballot request form closes
  • Tuesday 31 October: last safe date to return the ballot by post. Don’t leave it until the last minute, make sure that you vote as soon as you receive your ballot
  • Friday 3 November 2023 (17:00): industrial action ballot closes.  

UCU in the News

On Wednesday of last week UCU announced that university campuses will be hit with five days of strike action later this month. The announcement was covered on Sky News, BBC Radio 4 PM and regional TV and radio stations across the UK. The announcement came as the union withdrew its marking boycott. 

Speaking to the GuardianTelegraph and Times Jo Grady said: “We are left with no option but to strike during the start of term because our members refuse to stand by while pay is eroded and staff are shunted onto gig-economy contracts. 

“Universities are richer than ever, generating tens of billions of pounds in income and hoarding billions more in cash deposits, but they won’t give staff their fair share. A pay award of five percent is a huge real-terms pay cut and is substantially lower than school teachers received. 

“We have sought to settle this dispute at every opportunity, including agreeing to a joint review of sector finances, but we are faced with employers that want to see staff and students suffer.”

A Message from the General Secretary

Dear colleague

Thank you to everyone who voted in the consultation called by our higher education committee (HEC) on the next steps in the marking and assessment boycott (MAB) in our pay and conditions dispute. 60% of members voting indicated they were in favour of suspending the MAB.   

The HEC motion that called for the consultation was clear that if a majority were in favour of standing down the MAB then this should be done within a week of the survey closing. In line with this motion, today, our union has written to your employers to withdraw the MAB. This means that the HEC is no longer asking you to boycott your marking and assessment. Please click here for more details on what this suspension will mean for you if you have marking and assessment responsibilities. Our other actions short of strike action (ASOS) including working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and not undertaking any voluntary activities remain. 

The sacrifice that you have made to this action has been immense and has had an enormous impact on our dispute. We have exposed once and for all a sector which would rather try and starve out its staff, undermine the integrity of degrees, and disrupt students’ learning than give you the pay and conditions that you deserve.

Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) naively believe that not settling during the MAB would mean the end of the dispute. They couldn’t be more wrong. They couldn’t have underestimated you and your union more. The HEC has called five days of strike action later this month from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September. Some branches have arranged for local variations to ensure they can coordinate with other campus unions or to manage their own local disputes on punitive pay deductions or redundancies–the full list of strike dates can be found here. It is vital that our picket lines are once again busy and loud to show our employers that will not be moved until a proper settlement is put on the table. I will lead from the front by attending as many picket lines as I can.

Alongside this, HEC has also voted to launch another national ballot on this year’s pay offer. I know that a third ballot at a time when we are all tired seems a lot. But disputes of this magnitude–where we are trying to win big–take time. The RMT had three ballots before they settled their dispute in Network Rail earlier this year, and so did the CWU. These disputes demonstrate that it is only by renewing our mandate with another massive YES vote that we can force our employers to make the type of pay and conditions offer that members deserve. We also have significant evidence within our own union: the USS dispute was bitter and prolonged but we stuck together and we are well on track to our pensions being restored

Please make sure that your details are up to date on MyUCU and that you and your colleagues are ready to start campaigning for another ballot victory in the coming weeks.

I want to be clear–this fight is not over. We will not give up until we have delivered the deal that addresses years of pay cuts, unbearable workloads, rampant casualisation and unacceptable pay inequalities. Our strike action and ballot are a ramping up of this dispute to deliver a victory as soon as possible. 

We remain ready to talk. Ready to fight. Ready to vote YES. 

In solidarity 

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Industrial Action Continues

Members will be aware that UCEA remain unwilling to re-enter negotiations on pay.

We learned recently also that the Chair of UCEA declined the opportunity to discuss the dispute with the General Secretary when invited to do so by Sky News, instead sending a letter to the programme makers placing the blame for industrial action firmly on the shoulders of UCU and its members.

The inevitable consequence of such wilful belligerence is further action. See below communication from the GS to members:

Dear colleague

Our higher education committee (HEC) has today voted to take further industrial action before the end of September and to launch a reballot in the pay and conditions dispute over the coming months.  The marking and assessment boycott (MAB) continues. As so many of you have experienced on the ground, the MAB has been a hugely punishing undertaking, with an unprecedently vicious employer response. HEC has therefore decided to seek your views on how we use the tactic for the remainder of our current industrial action mandate, and you will receive details of this soon. This has been an incredibly bitter dispute and continued employer intransigence after all this time is infuriating. But the message today is clear: we won’t be bullied into standing down.  We are fighting not only for fair pay and conditions, but for universities that serve staff, students, and the public good. Employers are disgracing themselves and undermining the entire sector. This weekend even the government intervened to call for a negotiated settlement. We know that a fresh UK-wide ballot means a massive organising effort in your workplaces. As has been the case in every ballot, each and every one of us has a crucial role to play in persuading colleagues to join us and grow the union.  Sticking with the unbreakable collective resolve you have shown, we can win this dispute and transform higher education.  
In solidarity

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Branch Thanks Outgoing Auditor

Our thanks go to Maureen Pinder who stepped down as auditor of branch finances at this year’s AGM.

Maureen has fulfilled the role on a voluntary basis for several years, and is replaced by Prof Simon Shepherd who has kindly agreed to take on the role following the news of Maureen’s decision to step down.

EGM 14th June 2023

The powerpoint presentation from the latest EGM can be viewed here.

Questions from the floor:

Q – Is the University threat of 100% deduction likely to be implemented?

A – Current suggestion from management is that a 50% deduction for each day will be applied, but there is no detail on how that assessment will be made. Important that members share their experiences to allow branch to collate.

Q – I have completed form on HR website and then have been asked by line manager to identify time.

A – Branch advice is not t respond other than to HR online form, and only when prompted by HR.

Q – How does the branch feel the MAB is going?

A – Optometry seems to have carried on without impact by others including HoD taking up marking duties. Zero impact also reported in Law. It should be noted that if marking is covered by other staff then this could mean deductions are NOT applicable or limited to just the time between end of the marking deadline and completion of marks.

Q – any indication of what next steps should be?

A – This is to some extent dictated by national position and action. Locally, we could consider indicative online ballot in advance of seeking a mandate for local action if pay deduction is considered unfair or inconsistent. There is however some concern that there may not be that appetite which could make the branch appear weak if a ballot failed. A non-academic member assured the EGM that although not directly involved in MAB there would be some support over and above those currently participating.

Q – How can action impact be maximised

A – There is no doubt that strike action taken around the time of open days and graduation is more likely to illicit concern from management than other periods.

Motions

The following motions were voted upon – refer to PP slides for details

Motions 1a and 1b

Motions 1a and 1b were taken together under one vote:

For – 19,

Against – 0

Abstention – 1

Motion carried unopposed.

Motions 2a and 2b

Motions 2a and 2b were taken together under one vote:

For – 18,

Against – 0

Abstention – 0

Motion carried unopposed.